British America's Cup challenge on last legs

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Britain's America's Cup challenge is within weeks of collapse warned Originteam boss Sir Keith Mills yesterday. The man who negotiated the labyrinththat is the International Olympic Committee to bring the 2012 Games toLondon is finding it impossible to cut through the maze of intransigenthostility which intensified this weekend after it was announced that thewould-be America's Cup challenger, the San Francisco-based BMW Oracle, waslaunching yet another legal assault on the Swiss holder, Alinghi.

With three America's Cup teams in town and racing each other for the firstthree days of Skandia Cowes Week the prospect of a winter as cold as theeconomy is looming for most of the 14 potential challengers for what is oneof the oldest trophies in international sport.

"Unless the matter is resolved in the next few weeks, the commercialreality is that the [lack of] viability of the America's Cup challengerswill make it very difficult to continue," warned Mills.

Having seen their position as Challenger of Record, won through the NewYork Supreme Court and reversed 3-2 by the Appellate Division, LarryEllison's BMWOR now takes its case to the Court of Appeals. That will takeat least six months, a one-on-one may not yet be possible in 2009 andputting an event which allows everyone back in could then take years.

Mills was not able to watch his men give the opposition a thrashing onthe waters that also hosted the race in 1851 which gave rise to theAmerica's Cup saga. Instead it was BMW Oracles hired French gun FranckCammas was leading the way until he broke a beam as Rob Greenhalgh inOrigin rode the squalls into second until capsizing, Aqua managed tocapsize with a corporate (but uninjured) guest on board, followed by Volvoand then over went Jimmy Spiuthill in the second BMWOR boat. At that pointsomeone decided to bring racing to a halt.

As for the near-1,000 other boats and their 8,500 crew, they could scarcelygive a hoot as they enjoyed racing conditions which improved throughout thefirst day of eight.

There was a Robinson feel to the top of the TP52 big boats, Jeremy guidingNiklas Zennstrom's Ran (with a long A) to first with Stuart helming his ownStay Calm in second. First in the Sonatas were Owain, Jez, Tom and Chantfrom Wimborne, while third in the 1720s were Marcus, Radar, Al, Andy andMate from Winchester. Very relaxed.

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